James Went To Malta

Winter seems like it is going on forever – though by time I’ve finished writing this blog post about going to Malta, it will probably be September.

Why Malta?

I had two criteria for my holiday.

  1. It needed to be a country I had not previously visited, as per my goal of visiting 3 new countries this year.
  2. It needed to have a good chance that it would be warm and sunny.

I did at first consider going to the Caribbean or Mauritius, but decided spending that much money was daft when I am saving to buy a house.

I also considered Dubai to visit a good friend of mine – but decided going when Ramadan was on wouldn’t be so conducive to fun. Which also then ruled out North Africa and the rest of the Middle East.

Except Israel, which I strongly considered until I couldn’t find any hotels for less than £110 a night. Ouchie. Might have been quite interesting to be there during their mass protests that even closed the airport down.

Which pretty much left me with Malta – or sacrificing criteria 1 and just going to the south of Spain. Plus, I’d wanted to go to Malta for some time.

The Basics

Air Malta flights flying from Heathrow to Malta cost £160 including cabin bags – cabin bags are standard though, none of this “oh look how cheap our flights are (and how expensive taking a bag on board is)”.

Good flight times too – flying at 830pm on a Friday evening after work, flying back at 5pm on the Wednesday after. It did mean that arriving at 1am meant a hotel was a wiser choice than an Airbnb – I’d mostly been looking at staying in or near Valletta, but then I realised I could save money by staying in the picturesque north of the Island, in Mellieha.

My hotel of choice was the Maritim Antonine Hotel & Spa Malta – no I didn’t use the spa, or the restaurant, or the bar, or the rooftop pool…but it was just £45 a night which seemed a good deal – prices are triple that in the summer, and 20’C was forecast for the end of March which is all I want. 20’C and sunshine is the dream. Well, maybe I’d prefer 25’C in summer.

There’s not much to say about my arrival – a taxi was booked to collect me (taxi drivers are seemingly not talkative in Malta from my new-found very limited experience), the journey from airport to hotel took around 30 minutes, I found a bottle of water from a vending machine, and went to sleep.

The only thing I did notice was just how built-up Malta is – most of the route from airport to hotel was built-up. Must be a nightmare to be a NIMBY in Malta. And to think people in the UK get upset when we might want to build on slightly more than 5.6% of the land. Apparently Malta has the highest population density in the EU by some way. I can believe that.

Day 1 – Hiking, Beautiful Scenery & Beautiful Food

Culinarily, I’ve progressed a lot from my early 2000’s holidays to Ibiza, where I’d get a giant Yorkshire pudding with sausages, chips and gravy from Mad Dave’s bar every night.

Now I actively seek out fruit and vegetables.

Chicken Salad, Villager, Mellieha

Salad, beer and sunshine. I was happy.

Suitably reenergised, I decided to start my long walk (is it really hiking whilst wearing Adidas Gazelle’s?), via a shop to get some water and, of course, some Haribo.

First point of call on the walk was Popeye Village – a film set which you can normally visit, but sadly is closed due to storm damage.

Popeye Village, Malta, 2023

And the scenery continued along those lines for the rest of my walk – mostly the path was good, though a little robust – apparently I walked uphill for 825ft, whatever a ft is.

There were one or two points where I had to do like a crab crawl down a steep slope, but otherwise the route was pretty straight-forward, if rocky under foot at times.

There were occasionally some small towers or lookout shelters – I assume relics of WWII which they seem awfully keen to remind you of in Malta. Sometimes some very pretty wild flowers too – those yellow ones are impossible not to smile when you see them.

I ended up in Mgarr – the bar I intended to drink in had closed by time I arrived, as it seemed many places in this fairly small locals village had, or were due to. So I got a taxi back to Mellieha.

In the evening I went to a restaurant called Mithna, which was probably the best food I had all holiday (mildly annoying when that happens on the first night) – certainly it was the best service I had all holiday – they knew how to look after a solo diner, rather than me just being an annoyance whilst they look after families and groups.

Also they sold kangaroo – who could resist? Kangaroo on a bed of celeriac mash, with beetroot crisps and spring onions. And they had half bottles of wine – what a revelation. Maltese red wine was excellent every single time – and cheap too, just €12 for a half bottle at what was a fairly expensive restaurant.

I even enjoyed my vegan dessert.

Day 2 – Hiking, Beautiful Scenery & Not So Beautiful Food

It was Sunday, and England was playing in the evening, so disappointingly I was Brit abroad for Day 2. Albeit a Brit abroad that fancied another 8-10 mile walk along the coast.

Yep – more scenery:

Possibly a slightly tougher route than the day before, especially given that I ended up walking completely off-path, through loads of scrubland, attracting tons of flies to me before eventually working out where the path had gone to.

Eventually I joined some road, though then I had to take a detour as part of my original route was blocked. Finally, after walking through some uninspiring town areas, Google Maps announced to me, “your destination is on the right”.

It was ok. Full review will be out in due course on Roast Dinners Around The World.

Then I got the bus back to where I was staying, and went to watch the football.

Here:

Shit pub showing the football in Mellieha, Malta

Classy.

Given that I’d spent far too much already, I looked for somewhere cheaper for dinner for the evening, and found some swordfish for €17.00.

Swordfish.  Not the prettiest meal.

More salad. Yay. How exciting.

I loved the walk, enjoyed the beers and the roast dinner, but I wish I hadn’t bothered watching the football. Why did I bother? I had so many other things I could do. The swordfish and wine were good (nothing special) but fries and basic salad? Meh.

Day 3 – Bozo Goes To Gozo On Boat

I was aching by day 3, after doing over 50,000 steps the two days previous, and having around 30,000 beers.

So I decided to catch the boat to the nearby island of Gozo – because who doesn’t like a boat? Except my mother. And no, I didn’t do the 1.5 hour walk to the ferry terminal.

I even managed to get an English-style IPA:

Beer on a boat to Gozo

Gozo was definitely more sleepy than Malta, and I wouldn’t have missed out by not going – but ChatGPT told me to go, even if it is far too ambitious in terms of what you can do in a few hours – “in the afternoon, take a bus to Cirkewwa, where you can catch a ferry to the beautiful island of Gozo. Spend the afternoon exploring the island’s stunning beaches, quaint villages, and historic landmarks.”. Maybe with a car you can do all that, but I told it that I don’t drive.

I eschewed the stunning beaches, and headed to the Citadel.

I would tell you something about it but I didn’t read anything about it. I’m kind of not that interested in history – medieval battles and stuff. It’s gorgeous, and I enjoy walking around and taking it in – but I cannot feign too much interest otherwise. Maybe I will in my 60’s or something.

What I do enjoy, however, is walking up steep hills:

View from up a hill in Gozo.

Once at the top of the hill, I walked through a cute village to go to some ancient temple, Ġgantija.

At which point I was confronted by a €10 entrance charge. My immediate reaction was “10 fucking Euros?”. Then I thought I needed something impressive for my blog, to show you how cultural and educated I am. Plus I’d walked over an hour to get there. Up hill. Up a very steep hill.

I paid the €10.

For this:

Ġgantija Temple.  Boring.

10 fucking Euros.

UNESCO saw me coming.

Then I went for a beer in front of the church – classic European village scene (yes I was wearing short shorts, and yes all the locals were wearing coats).

Beer near a church,

Then I walked down the hill, waited 40 minutes for the bus (well, walked 35 minutes more and waited 5 minutes for the bus), got the ferry back, then another standing room only bus, then…ahhhh…a beer.

Dinner was good – pork belly confit with potato dauphinoise – and yet more vegetables. Check me out and my future sexy body.

Pork belly confit from Villager, Mellieha.

Day 4 – Valletta

Yeah, its only day 4 of this blog post. Just be thankful I don’t intend on going travelling around the world.

Let’s start with a giant cat on top of a block of toilets because:

Giant cat on top of a block of toilets.

Who needs generative AI? Good level of public toilets in Malta, by the way.

I started off in a brewery…well…I started off on a “fast” bus, which took a long time to get nearish Sliema, which is just to the north of Valletta – my eventual intended destination.

So I started off in a brewery, drinking some pretty decent IPA. In the sunshine. Next to a dual carriageway. Then I got the ferry across to Valletta, which took around 5 minutes and cost around €1.50 – deal of the holiday.

The place I wanted to go to lunch was closed, upon seating at the back-up plan I decided the waiter was rude and anyway I wanted fish, so I left without ordering. It’s rare that I take notice of such senses as I’m normally too English to do that (not when there is a pile of old rocks involved though), thankfully by doing so I had a pretty fucking fantastic crusted salmon fillet at my 3rd choice, Porticello Restaurant, overlooking the coast. Alas, it was much too windy.

Crusted salmon from Porticello Restaurant, Valletta.

I then wandered around the beauty of Valletta for a while, admiring the building, the architecture, the design – the balconies. Damn this was one stylishly built place. Was it really run by us British?

I decided to find out and went to the National War Museum at Fort St Elmo. Which was actually a good museum and worth the €10 entrance fee.

Split into 6 buildings, and 6 eras, starting with the bronze age (yawn) but going through the various successful and unsuccessful attempts at conquering the strategic island of Malta, including the Ottomans, Italians, British. It seemed like the British takeover was relatively welcomed – well, it was us or the French – who would you choose?

Of course, the museum covered WWII heavily, in particular I recall how Malta was known as the nurse of the war, given how many injured soldiers would be brought to Malta for treatment.

It did seem like there was less effort put into the displays as time went on – and the last building was like, “hey the war is over, we are a democracy and now in the EU, bye”. Cue for me to go get a bus back to Mellieha. A 20 minute wait for a bus. 54 stops. And nearly 2 hours in often-stationary traffic. DO NOT GET BUSES IN MALTA if you value your sanity. Perils of solo-travelling, as nobody to share €25 taxi charges with.

I had a steak in the evening but the service was one of those “urgh solo diner scum” kind of vibes.

Day 5 – More Buses, More Valletta

My flight was at 5pm, and I was left with a decision. Do I stay in Mellieha, have the hotel look after my bag but then have to try to get a 1.5 hour bus (or two) to the airport, or a €30+ taxi?

Or do I go to Valletta, then at least only have to worry about a 30 minute bus to the airport or a €12 taxi? But then I’d have a suitcase to lug around with me.

I decided to go to Valletta, as I hadn’t seen much of it. Cue nearly 2 hours on an often-stationary bus, but this time stood up most of the way, with bags in tow. Oh and it was hot enough for even some locals to take their coats off. Urgh.

Check out this funky crane though:

Sexy crane in Valletta.

I decided to go to the Lascaris War Rooms, because they had lockers so I assumed they’d let me stash my suitcase there for a couple of hours. Except when I bought a ticket and asked where the lockers were, the lady said, “oh you can leave your bags with me”. Erm…

I did, and the museum was 5 minutes walk away down 5,600 steps.

There was some funky old war stuff in there, but I couldn’t be arsed with reading a long article in every room to work out what was going on, plus I worried about my suitcase, so I spent €14 on looking around for 10 minutes.

I picked up my suitcase and wandered around, soaking in the vibes, enduring the huge amount of tourists from the cruise ships in town – American accents everywhere. Granted, I am also tourist.

And I did the most dumbass tourist thing ever – sitting down in a bar in a square in the centre of town. I started reading the reviews on my phone, and the waiter took the menu off me. Oh well. He did at least bring me a warm local beer. Should have gone to Fat Harrys perhaps, but I needed a last dose of sunshine.

I had lunch sat outside Valletta’s number one sandwich shop – it should have been a treat, but the bread was soooo toasted, it was like half of London’s Yorkshire pudding chefs had been on duty.

And that was that.

What did I learn?

I don’t really like museums. I really enjoy theatre, modern art, etc – but museums? I remember finding the British Museum boring too a few years back.

When solo dining, it is better to go to really good restaurants – proper restaurants. Which means I should also go somewhere cheaper for lunch, ie sandwich places, albeit ones that don’t cremate bread.

I love long walks. The long walks were the favourite parts of my holiday. Dreamy moments.

Would I go back to Malta?

Yeah, sure. I’ve left enough of the island untouched and it is the perfect place to go for some warm, spring sunshine.

It’s not the cheapest island in the Mediterranean – food is London prices, for example, but drinks are cheap and there is plenty to do.

Should you go to Malta?

Yes. If you like sunshine, walks, beautiful scenery, good food – or don’t get bored in WWII museums.

I spent about £450 whilst there – but that was mostly on eating out, and drinks – plan wisely and I’m sure you can do it cheaper than I did.

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